CIS Countdown 2010: Guelph Gryphons

In 50 words or less: Despite a number of key returnees on both sides of the ball, the Gryphons are team in transition, attempting to keep pace in the OUA with a new quarterback and coaching staff. Gryphons fans could soon find themselves missing Justin Dunk's leadership and playmaking abilities under centre.

Burning questions:

CAN offensive stalwarts Nick Fitzgibbon and Jedd Gardner take the pressure off the raw and unproven second-year quarterback, Chris Rossetti?

CAN promising second-year defensive tackle Cam Thorn return to form and control the interior, coming off a serious leg injury at the end of 2009?

WILL the Gryphons' defence improve after allowing an atrocious 490 yards per game in 2009?

WHO will be missed more -- All-Star K Rob Maver, (drafted in the first round by the Calgary Stampeders), QB Justin Dunk (graduated), or All-Star OL Ryan Bomben (drafted in the fourth round by the Montreal Alouettes, but could still return with a year of remaining eligibility)?

HOW will former DL Scott Eggleton handle the switch to offensive line?

2009 recap: (3-5 regular season, lost in first round of playoffs to Western) The Gryphons season was a roller coaster ride to say the least. Averaging more than 40 points-per-game through their first four contests, the high-powered offence overwhelmed opposing defences and looked poised to challenge the OUA's top teams. In Guelph's Homecoming game against the Western Mustangs, however, QB Justin Dunk found himself in hot water, making an inappropriate comment into a camera on live television and earning himself a much-publicized one-game suspension. Following Dunk's return, the offence failed to find its stride down the stretch as the Gryphons dropped their final three games and limped into the OUA playoffs, ultimately falling to the Mustangs by a score of 37-18.

Key Departures: QB Justin Dunk, K Rob Maver, OL Ryan Bomben, DL Jeff Cain, DL Phil Warnica, RB Josh McCreight, SB Jamie Shaw, WR Dave Harrison (injury)

Key Arrivals: DL Kalven Seilis (transfer, E. Michigan), DL Jeff Finley (Sir Winston Churchill HS), DL Hunter Principi (St. Thomas More HS), RB Keith Walker (Assumption HS), RB Steven Lagace (transfer, Waterloo), SB Nick Anapolsky (transfer, Waterloo), DB Brett MacDonald (transfer, Waterloo)

Keep an eye on: Second-year WR Jason Diston. The two-sport super-athlete was named CIS Male Rookie of the Year in track and field and will look to make an impact in his second season with the Gryphons. Renowned track and field coach Dave Scott-Thomas has labeled him the best athlete on campus and at 6'3, 187 pounds, Diston will create matchup problems against opposing defensive backs. Diston, along with promising second-year receiver Dillon Dimitroff and Waterloo transfer Nick Anapolsky, will look to step up in a thin Gryphons receiving corps behind Gardner. Also worth watching is second-year QB Chris Rossetti. Rossetti is the favourite to take over the reins as the Gryphons' signal caller and will have big shoes to fill, replacing record-setting quarterback Justin Dunk. The southpaw performed well in limited action last season, helping to lead the Gryphons to a 34-24 victory over Waterloo and like Dunk, has the ability to create plays with both his arm and his feet.

Coach & Coordinators: Head coach Stu Lang begins his first season leading the Gryphons, moving up from his former position as receivers coach. Lang will be joined by a pair of brand new full-time coordinators, OC Perry Marchese and DC Kevin MacNeill, who is familiar with a number of current players from his time as head coach of the Guelph Bears. Former longtime DC Bill Brown returns to coach defensive backs and work as director of recruiting and football development.

Did you know? No CIS school sent more players to the CFL Evaluation Camp in March than the Gryphons. Six Gryphons participated in the E-Camp, including Justin Dunk, Adam Dunk, Nick Fitzgibbon, Ryan Bomben, Rob Maver and DL Grant MacDonald.

Off-the-field factors: The Gryphons continue to pillage the Niagara region in their recruiting efforts (all-Canadian DB James Savoie, DB Sebastian Howard, Jedd Gardner, WR Michael Fortino, Jason Diston and Jeff Finley all hail from the area), a continuation of the concentrated efforts by former head coach Kyle Walters.

From last season's preview: An explosive offence was largely predicted last year. So too were the expected impacts of incoming recruits OL Jakob Piotrowski and DL Cam Thorn, who will be expected to battle in the trenches in year two after starting in their inaugural seasons.

Stock up or down: Down. Despite a number of key returnees on both sides of the ball, this is a team with questions at quarterback and questions with a new and unproven coaching staff. The pieces are falling into place, but 2010 could bring some trying times for this group. The Gryphons should match last year's underwhelming 3-5 record, but will struggle against the league's top teams.

Aug. 26 Guelph @ Concordia – 12pm - EXHIBITION
Sept. 1 Toronto @ Guelph – 3pm
Sept. 6 Guelph @ York - 1pm
Sept. 11 Bye Week
Sept. 18 Queens @ Guelph - 1pm
Sept. 25 Western @ Guelph - 1pm – Guelph Homecoming
Oct. 2 Guelph @ Laurier - 1pm – Laurier Homecoming
Oct. 7 Guelph @ McMaster - 7pm
Oct. 16 Windsor @ Guelph – 1pm
Oct. 23 Guelph @ Ottawa - 1pm
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